Mali Guttman, A”H

By Yochanan Gordon

Rochel Mali Guttman, a’h, was my wife’s closest friend for the past thirty years. She battled a bout of stage 4 cancer valiantly until she could no longer, and her soul returned to its maker on the first night of Shavuos followed by interment a day later at the tender age of 37.

Mali, as she was affectionately known, was the youngest of five girls and is survived by her son Elchanan, daughter Ariella, her parents Chaim and Yaffa Guttman, and her sisters Penina, Malkie, Esti, Tzippy, and a large and devoted circle of friends and family who loved her and cherished her existence

Mali was a private person who eschewed recognition and would certainly be upset over the fact I am writing this tribute to her. However, I feel a sense of obligation towards writing this in order to express the gratitude my family felt for her constant smiles, good cheer, and ever-present sense of encouragement. The truth is, Mali’s passing on the first night of Shavuos precluded the possibility of any hespedim being given, and the small levayah is exactly how she would have wanted it. Despite that, she spent her short lifetime giving of herself selflessly to so many people on whom she left a huge impact, and for that alone she deserves all the accolades and praise, and will certainly be remembered.

At the shivah house this past Sunday, her father Chaim told me about a phone call he received from Eretz Yisrael, from the parents of a developmentally disabled child who Rochel Mali was looking after for many years. He said that for ten minutes, the parents of this child, from a Rebbeishe family from Meah Shearim in Eretz Yisrael, cried profusely before they could even utter a word.

There was nothing that Mali loved more than giving gifts. She had, what her siblings describe as her own miniature Amazing Savings closet where she kept gifts that she would regularly buy and distribute to her nieces and nephews and other kids she felt needed to know someone was thinking of them. I joked to her father that Mali could easily put Santa Claus out of business, a reflection which brought smiles and comfort to the grieving family in the room.

Her passing on Shavuos was a stroke of Divine Providence. It is certainly not a coincidence that the Baal Shem Tov was interred by a goy on Shavuos. When it occurred to me that Mali shared a yahrzeit with the saintly founder of the Chassidic movement, I explained to my wife that one of the unique characteristics that made the Baal Shem Tov so great is that he recognized the innate sanctity of every Jew, no matter how unschooled. In fact, he taught that it was precisely through the simplicity of an uneducated Jew that a person could access the unadulterated essence of Hashem.

As I was explaining this to my wife, her eyes lit up with excitement and she began to get goosebumps when she explained that everything I’d been saying was an apt description of Mali. Mali descended from a Chassidic family on both her mother’s and father’s sides. Her mother hails from a prominent Breslov family, and her father is an Aleksander Chassid known for his largesse to its institutions and many other worthy causes dear to his heart.

One of the most difficult things was visiting her in the hospital twice prior to her untimely passing. The first time she was still conscious and capable of communicating, albeit with great difficulty. However, by the second time, just a week later, she was attached to so many tubes and monitors that she was clearly feeling much discomfort as she faded in and out of consciousness. One of her siblings expressed that it was sad that we had to witness her in that state, to which I quickly replied that we are girded with a lifetime of beautiful memories which is exactly the way she is now remembered.

When we learned of Mali’s untimely passing immediately after Shavuos and that she had already been interred, that thought kept gnawing at me. I know Mali was a quiet person and she despised large crowds, but what about the honor and respect that is due to a young soul who spent a lifetime giving of her time and resources to so many? One of the explanations given as to why the Baal Shem Tov was buried on Shavuos without any fanfare and with the assistance of a non-Jew was because the Besht, as he was known, was the harbinger of the coming of Moshiach, an era which has been described as a time when the world will be permeated by the awareness of G-d. The world includes both Jews and non-Jews. As such, it would be appropriate for a non-Jew to be involved in the interment of the great sage.

Given this unique characteristic that connects Mali and the Baal Shem Tov and the fact that they share the same yahrzeit, it was clear to me that a similar Divine Providence was at the backdrop of Mali’s final journey. Mali lived with a great deal of faith in Hashem. In fact, I can personally attest to the fact that she believed she would ultimately recover from this dreaded illness. But she had a certain chen that radiated on her and endeared her to all who knew her. As such, Mali had a way of getting what she needed from people. There’s no doubt that Mali is making the case for the coming of Moshiach, and knowing her the way we do, we are sure that the Aibishter will have no choice but to accede to her request.

Death should be swallowed for eternity. Hashem should wipe all the tears from the faces of all mankind. May her family be consoled among the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem and may we hereafter share only in each other’s simchas including the ultimate simcha with the arrival of Moshiach.


  1. This article brought tears to my eyes….it captured the essence of Mali’s personality. Special thanks goes to her friends, who were like sisters, and her amazing sisters and family members who stood by her side 24/7- Such tzaddikim and tzidkaniyos of our dor. My dear unforgettable niece will not forget us as she will be a melitza yeshara for her family and klal yisroel. Yehi zichra baruch


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here